December 19, 2011

Long time, no Cricket!

by Nayyar Abdul Rasheed

It has been a long time since I last watched cricket. I feel disconnected; like a batsman halfway down the crease as the ball soars above his shoulder, missing his terrorized face. It has been precisely 8 days. For the past 8 days, I have done some things which I had not thought about while I was watching cricket. There was the England tour, then they came here to return the favor, then West Indies came to make us feel better, then Sehwag did something crazy and then this, this huge break from cricket. It has been somewhat unexpected. Of course a fan will tell me there is this huge build up for the Australian tour. I have already informed my parents not to gasp in surprise if they find me hunched in front of the Television at unusual hours in the morning. But somehow it doesn’t seem like just 8 days since I watched the last match India played.

 

Waiting for the resumption of non-stop Cricket.

 

Meanwhile, the following things grabbed my attention:

 

I saw Symonds appear in Big Boss and repeat the sounds others made in Hindi.

Bhajji then said he’s a nice guy. Main achha insaan hoon.

 

Ishant has a problem with his ankle.

Zaheer is fit to play. They say pay extra to get ad free telecast.

BCCI wants extra to have injury free telecast.

 

Dravid gets a standing ovation for a memorable speech.

Ganguly says Dravid didn’t have the guts to speak against Chappell.

Tendulkar slams a fluent 92 in the practice match.

Some things just never change.

 

BCCI scrapped Nimbus’ deal.

They finally realized how to bring crowd to the stadiums.

 

Sachin can now receive Bharat Ratna.

Watching Aaj Tak debating Sachin’s greatness over other sportsperson, I realized Sachin is omnipresent. Just.Like.God.

 

Jayawardene got run out on 9999.

I never realized he was this close to 10k. Respect!

 

Dhoni said he hasn’t decided on 2015 yet.

2015 seems bleak already.

 

Dhoni also said he likes to keep things simple.

I have kept things simple in this article.

 

Someone wondered during Cricinfo’s commentary of a recent Test match, whether there’s a Sri Lankan whose name can’t be tweeted.

Challenge accepted.

 

Warne burnt his hand.

Warne still played in BBL.

Warne got Warner-ed.

 

I lost my wallet.

A day before my internship ended in a remote place of Gujarat.

I realized cricket is not everything.

 

Next stop – 26th December, Boxing Day Test. Till then I’ll see how life is without cricket.

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December 4, 2011

The best of Virat Kohli: The future Number Three

by Nayyar Abdul Rasheed

Virat Kohli scored his 8th ODI century at Vizag in the recently concluded 2nd ODI between India and West Indies. 5 of those 8 ODI hundreds have now come in the 2nd innings, all leading to successful run-chases. 2 of them have been in the first innings for a winning cause and only a single century, in the first innings in England recently, ended up for a losing side in a rain curtailed match. Also, 8 of his 17 half centuries have been match winning efforts while chasing the target. Let us take a look at his match winning performances in the 2nd innings.

Runs Scored Strike Rate Batting Position Opposition Venue Target Chased
118 97.52 3 Australia Vishakhapatnam 290
117 95.12 4 West Indies Vishakhapatnam 270
112* 114.28 4 England Delhi 238
107 93.85 4 Sri Lanka Kolkata 316
102* 107.36 3 Bangladesh Dhaka 248
91 89.21 3 Bangladesh Dhaka 297
86* 86.86 4 England Mumbai 221
82 89.13 3 Sri Lanka Bulawayo 243
81 78.64 3 West Indies Port of Spain 183 (37 overs)
79* 75.96 4 West Indies Johannesburg 130
71* 104.41 3 Sri Lanka Dhaka 214
64 87.67 3 New Zealand Jaipur 259
63* 90.00 3 New Zealand Vadodara 225

Since Kohli’s ODI debut 3 years back, India has successfully chased down 250 plus scores ten times, half of them involving Kohli’s match winning knocks. Virat Kohli’s phenomenal success in chasing targets reflects in his 2nd innings average of 56.77 compared to his career average of 46.38. His strike rate of about 84 is also brilliant and a further proof of his success. Partnerships are the cornerstone of any big run chase and rotating the strike is essential for the flourish of a partnership in the early stages at least. This has been the modus operandi for Kohli and the rest of the young brigade. Here is a look at Kohli’s partnerships in the 2nd innings for a winning cause.

Batting Partner Innings Not Out Runs Highest Partnership Average 100 50
Gautam Gambhir 12 2 1006 224 100.60 4 2
Rohit Sharma 3 0 369 163 123.00 2 1
MS Dhoni 5 1 307 152 76.75 1 1
Suresh Raina 6 1 321 131 64.20 1 1
Yuvraj Singh 6 1 287 137 57.40 1 1

The partnership with Gautam Gambhir has been the most successful and somehow it’s not much of a surprise since both the batsmen have similar techniques and make an ideal combination for ODI chases. Both batsmen are fluent stroke makers and rely mostly on nudging the ball in gaps for scoring opportunities and are quick between the wickets. Also, the boundaries are caressed with ease rather than the usual bludgeoning of Raina or Dhoni. These two have been instrumental in many memorable chases in the past including the world cup final where they added 83 runs in 15.3 overs for the 3rd wicket after India were left reeling at 31/2 chasing 275.

These are the 5 best ODI innings that stand out in my view as the best that he has played so far.

1. 107 vs Sri Lanka in Kolkata, 2009

The first ODI ton.

His maiden ODI century, this was made in the cauldron of Eden Gardens, chasing a stiff target of 316. India were, not for the first time in the coming years while chasing large totals, reduced to 23/2 with Sehwag and Sachin falling early in the innings. When Kohli departed at the start of the 40th over, India were just 69 runs away from reaching the winning total. He had added 224 runs with Gambhir in 35.4 overs at a run rate of 6.28. It was only the 2nd instant in ODIs when, in a successful chase of a score in excess of 300, a 200 plus partnership took place. Kohli’s innings was marked by elegant flicks on the leg side and firm punches off the back foot. In this 224 run partnership, the duo of Kohli and Gambhir ran 125, underscoring the importance that they put on running between the wickets. This was starting of a budding partnership that still calms the nerves whenever these two are at the crease.

2. 118 vs Australia in Vishakhapatnam, 2010

A hundred against a relatively new Aussie attack.

This was a series where both the teams were missing their senior pros. Australia had posted 289 on the board with the help of a century from Michael Clarke and Cameron White’s whirlwind 89 off 69 deliveries. Yuvraj Singh joined Kohli at the crease in the 9th over with the Indian scorecard reading just 35 with the makeshift openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay back in the hut. The asking rate was more than 6 runs per over and Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh added 137 runs for the 3rd wicket at 5.4 runs per over. When Yuvraj fell, Kohli added 84 runs with Suresh Raina in just 9.4 overs at 8.68 and also reached his 4th ODI hundred in the process. His 118 included 11 fours and a handsome six over long on. He scored in all parts of the ground with 54 coming on the off-side and 64 on the leg-side. He struggled with cramps in the 70s and 80s but still hung in there to take the team closer to the target. This innings, although against a relatively new attack, was another gem in his building repertoire of match winning knocks.

3. 117 vs West Indies in Vishakhapatnam, 2011

8th ODI hundred, 5th in a successful chase

Riding on an unbelievable 86 not out from their number 10 Ravi Rampaul, West Indies posted a very competitive 269 after being reduced to 170-9 at one stage. The West Indians believed now, they had the momentum and when Gambhir fell to a shocker of a catch from Adrian Barath in the covers, India needed a soothing balm, another calm innings, another big innings. Kohli provided that yet again. Sehwag fell after an edgy innings with the score reading only 84.Kohli was joined by another young batsman who was making a comeback after an injury lay off. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli went about the business in the most methodical way possible. They collected runs by nudging the balls in the gaps and not forcing them over the fielders. Darren Sammy, the opposition captain can be again criticized for letting the pressure off the Indian batsmen but it was Kohli and Sharma’s beautiful batting that led India to a successful chase yet again. Kohli completed his 8th hundred in ODIs and struck 14 beautiful fours in the process. It was one partnership that reflected a wonderful future for the Indian team, presenting glimpses of, one might say, Dravid and Tendulkar in the 90s.

4. 82 vs Sri Lanka in Bulawayo, 2010

Flashy strokes, but only few

One of the less flashy innings from Kohli, he was the perfect foil for Rohit Sharma who took more risks and scored a century to overcome a dodged Sri Lanka. This was after a shock defeat to Zimbabwe in the previous match and Kohli and Sharma made sure that there were no hiccups this time around with a level headed partnership. Kohli hit just 4 boundaries in this innings and collected most runs with quick singles and doubles that have been the hallmark of his stay at the crease more often than not. He used the width of the crease very well, going either fully back or leaning forward, to tackle the different lengths. Later, he unfurled the big shots; an inside-out hit, a pulled boundary and a supple on-drive. This was yet another eye catching display of matured batting when it came to the youngsters Kohli and Sharma.

5. 35 vs Sri Lanka in Mumbai, 2011

An assured hand

By no means a match winning knock or even a high scoring one, but when Sachin left the field edging a Malinga outswinger to Sangakkara, the nation stood shocked. Nobody saw Virat Kohli moving on to the crease and taking guard. They were all either staring at each other in disbelief and shock or just went on to do something else for an ideal dream had just been broken, that of Sachin scoring his 100th international 100 in the World Cup final in front of the home crowd. India were chasing 275 and were now 31/2 courtesy of Malinga’s double blow. The target looked farther than ever. In the 90s, this could very well have been the end of the match for India. But the last couple of years of pressure situations had molded this new generation of batsmen to believe in themselves even as the country slowly came to accept the reality of the night. Kohli missed a few pacy deliveries from Malinga and ducked a few early on. It was a time when belief needed to resurface in the audience. Kohli and Gambhir made sure they instilled that sense to some extent. The partnership of 83 between them brought India out of that mental hole that had been created after Sachin’s dismissal. Kohli played some elegant strokes, rotating the strike often, letting Gambhir who was looking increasingly good to make the most of the bad balls. They ran hard and with conviction. Kohli was shaping up very good when Dilshan took a blinder off his own bowling to send him back. The match wasn’t won right then, it was still an uphill task, but now there was belief in the spectators as well.

It is a pleasure to watch Virat Kohli bat, not because of hard hitting strokes or huge sixes but for the ease with which he settles on the crease and moves between the wickets. It’s as smooth and pleasurable as spreading butter on toast with utmost evenness in one flash of hand. The singles give a joy that buckles up and a boundary every now and then that releases that pleasure in one fine move. There is that belief and that calmness which now accompanies him, whenever India’s future number 3 comes out to bat.

November 30, 2011

Some treasures in the game.

by Nayyar Abdul Rasheed

Internet can be an exhilarating experience for someone who is hungry for a plethora of information relating to any aspect of one’s interest. In past few months I have realized the orgasmic nature of taking in such information when I had never even imagined that such resources were available to me just a click away. There is little fun in reading post match analysis and checking the score on cricket sites but that’s their main role. They fill the gaps in an on-the-go sports fanatic’s life who doesn’t always have the luxury of watching a lengthy sport like cricket all the time. But when time is at your disposal and you take a look at what else the internet provides other than the usual score and analysis stuff, then you start a journey that’ll take you from the very beginning to the brink of total nirvana for the game that you love the most.

Ever heard about a gentleman called Neville Cardus? Or a certain John Arlott? Did you know Don Bradman wrote the best coaching manual on the game of cricket in living history? Ever wondered how the bodyline series affected the players? Hell, even thought how the bodyline came to be? Did you know Ajit Agarkar’s one and only greater than 3 wicket haul performance in 26 Test matches was a 6 wicket haul? Did you also know that his only score of 50 or above was a 109? Have you ever fancied gulping down queer statistics about your favourite players in your mind? Ever wondered what was the quickest 5 wicket haul ever in cricket in terms of balls bowled? Have you thought about who is the most prolific century maker in the fourth innings? Who makes the most share of the runs scored by his team? Did you know that Hyderabad’s wicketkeeper broke the world record for most dismissals in first class recently? That the guy who had the record till now also scored 99 and 99 (not out) in both innings of the match? Ever read the experience and felt the joy of a fan who witnessed the 2000th Test at Lords? Ever imagined what it would be like to choose the best XI for all the different teams in cricket ….

There is no end to this random yet enriching knowledge. They don’t mention it in newspapers, they don’t broadcast it on TV, they don’t have discussions about it in post match interviews. I have realized that cricket is not centered around Sachin Tendulkar and Team India. They are only the recent most addition to an epic that has been in work since more than a century. A work of players, commentators, spectators and people who have been enthralled by the beauty of the game. It is a journey that if taken, is not rewarding when just centered around a single player or a single team. Yes, there is an immediate satisfaction in it but for everlasting impact on the soul of a cricket lover, I suggest we dig deeper into the history of this beautiful game, understand the importance of the off-the-field inputs and savour the feeling of witnessing a contest and not just the result itself. I’m presenting here a few articles and information that made me feel so excited about whole new facets left to be explored in the game, to be understood, to be enjoyed as a part of cricket.

I found this article on my facebook page which was published on Cricinfo. It talked about the importance of a certain John Arlott in the lives of two players – Harold Larwood and Basil D’Oliveira. I had never heard about any of these gentlemen. I ended up having a certain liking for Larwood as a bowler and as a person, a sense of hatred towards his captain in the bodyline series, Douglas Jardine and an immense respect for John Arlott even though I haven’t read any of his work nor heard his fabled commentary. As with wikipedia, a certain link here can lead to so many new links and I ended up having a new awe-inspiring figure in Sir Neville Cardus. I have to get my hands on his book ‘Good Days’ somehow!

Talking about cricket’s literature, I decided on getting a ‘must read cricket books list’. Something that Cricinfo again helped me with. This is a collection of 45 books filtered down from a century of cricket literature. It’s not the only good cricket literature, but just a help with where to start.

Reading about the historic figures, somehow the interest went to the cricket ball itself and a discussion that I had with a friend about how a cricket ball in tests is more difficult to face than in ODIs. Although both are identical in make but only for the paint, there are still some things that a red cherry will do which are not expected of the white ball. Anyways, I found a gem of an article about the journey that simple cork and leather undergo to the ultimate reality of being a cricket ball. Read it here, it’s really awesome!

Cricket is a game of numbers that run into epic proportions. They become greater than the player, than the art and sometimes greater than the goal to win too. Test hundreds is one statistic that we Indians in particular, are really obsessed with. And this gem of an analysis tells you almost everything there is know about Test centuries. Have a look and get bogged by down by the colossal numbers! Also, for those who haven’t yet realized the beauty of statistics, can have a look at Cricinfo’s magician, the Statsguru. If you haven’t used this, you haven’t realized yet the magic you can possess with this tool in your hand!

Although it’ll be something out of this world to read Don Bradman’s mind about the art of batting in his book ‘The art of cricket’, it is still an enriching experience to read about his views on seam and swing bowling. This is an excerpt that I found on the net, it’s from the same book. Seriously, he knows what he is talking about!

Also, this is one story of a fan who witnessed the England-India test series in the stadiums. I fantasize about being able to witness such a moment in my life, being able to stand in a cauldron of human mass and chant the names of my heroes on the field and witness the fierceness and finesse being displayed out in the middle.

It’s a never ending journey of being enthralled by this game, it’s an ongoing process that springs up new surprises every now and then. It’s just marvelous, this game of cricket!!! 😀

November 25, 2011

Exhilaration.Tension. Frustration.

by Nayyar Abdul Rasheed

I preferred to do the night shift yesterday because I did not want to take the day off to watch Sachin score that 100th ton. The night was cold and dull and it just passed away at its own pace. At 9 am I was home and switched on the TV and grabbed a cup of tea, sensing my nerves which were starting to feel the excitement as Sachin started his walk from the pavilion.

First ball, a bouncer by Ravi Rampaul and Sachin ducks to avoid it. Nerves. Nerves. Nerves.

A casual flick through the on-side and 2 runs run quickly to take him to 69. 31 needed, good shot.

Last ball of the over, Rampaul bowls length on the leg stump. Flicked through the on-side for a four. Seen that so many times, still love it! Confidence is growing. 27 needed.

<Laxman plays, outside edge, caught. Nothing happened. 27 still needed.>

Similar delivery on the legs, similar shot, but deep square leg in place. 26 needed. Off the strike.

And I stand and shout and clap. The marvelous, the genius, the beauty! He has hit that straightest of the straight drive. Oh I’m over the moon! I’m jumping and laughing! The perfect balance, that high elbow, that gentlest of the push and away she goes to the fence, caressing the lush green grass all the way! 22 needed. Only.

Now he touches, drops it on off side and runs to the other end. Kohli responds. I can’t stop smiling. 21 now.

Short ball, he moves across, flicks it to the boundary. ALMOST! I grab my head and still smile as someone stops it short of the boundary with his boot. They run 2. It should have been 4! It was perfect! Still, 19 needed.

And I go mad again! I’m laughing so hard and I’m clapping despite looking so foolish. It’s the great cover drive but I think the fielder might stop it. He doesn’t. I laugh at myself for thinking he could. Just 15 left.

He flicks it to leg side for a couple now. I’m starting to think what I will do when he really gets there. 13 runs away.

<Fidel bowls a lethal bouncer, Sachin ducks superbly. Fidel stares at Sachin and asks for the ball from Baugh. I stare at Fidel and ask for patience from God.>

God responds superbly! Another short ball and God guides it simply over the slips for a SIX! I’m in awe and I can’t close my gaping mouth. This is just too much happiness to explain in words. The man is doing it without any fuss. We are all spellbound by the magic. 7 runs away.

<An over of Rampaul vs Kohli. Give him the strike dammit!>

Fidel bowls full outside off. Tedulkar squirts it to the off-side. 1 run taken. 6 runs needed. JUST.SIX.RUNS.

<8 deliveries bowled. Finally he gets back on strike.>

<What a genius the man is! Juuuust opens the face of the bat to counter the away movement at the last moment on that delivery! Rampaul goes back to his run up. Sachin gets ready to face the next ball. I imagine his greatness, it’s ……

OUT! I see the next ball, I see the catch, I see Rampaul go mad. I see Sachin’s face, he runs his tongue inside his mouth, lets out a sigh, takes off his gloves and walks past Kohli who’s looking confused. Walks all the way. Looks back at the crowd once. Then tucks his bat under his arm and enters the pavilion.

I’m stunned still. I don’t know what to do now. I look at the cup of tea in my hand, long gone cold. I look at the remote lying by the side. I don’t know what to do with the cup still. I keep it down finally and take a deep breath and move to my bed. I want to write this first. I don’t want to remember this feeling. But I want to let it out. I’ll skip the rest of the match. I just don’t want to watch it.

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November 23, 2011

Cricketing Strategies – a short quiz.

by Nayyar Abdul Rasheed

Cricket can be complicated. It involves factors such as pitch and overhead conditions, condition of the cricket ball, field placements, required run rate, seam position, pace, swing, drift, spin; any change in any one of these may end up in having a totally different result for the players on the field. For a cricket enthusiast, there can’t be anything more interesting than predicting the result and the strategy that should be applied to make the most of the different conditions. I’m presenting a few of my own questions, lets have fun adjusting to the challenges the players face every moment.

Some of these questions may be multiple choice, all are not.

I have so much free time at my disposal, I think sometimes! 😛

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